Many years ago, I worked at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. The Pulitzer Foundation is a museum featuring rotating visual, literary, and performing arts exhibits. Many of the paintings and sculptures in the museum are from Joseph Pulitzer’s private collection. The Pulitzers are quite famous in St. Louis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper was founded by Joseph Pulitzer’s grandfather, Joseph Pulitzer Sr., in 1872. Later, he established the “Pulitzer Prize”. In 1950, Joseph Pulitzer Sr.’s other grandson, Peter, married a young girl named Lillian McKim. Shortly thereafter, the Pulitzer family’s fame extended outside the literary world—into the fashion world!
I first heard of Lilly Pulitzer while working at the Pulitzer Foundation. I immediately became intrigued with Lilly, as my love of both art and fashion became intertwined. I did a bit of research and I fell in love with Lilly’s designs. Her fabrics are so bold and colorful ; they induce happiness at first sight. It’s the fashion equivalent of vacationing in the tropics! Here is some background on Lilly for those who are unfamiliar with her…
Lilly McKim, who was a former classmate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, eloped with Peter Pulitzer when she was 19 years-old. Peter and Lilly left New York City for sunny Palm Beach, FL. Peter ran the family’s orange groves. Lilly became a rich, but bored housewife — until one day she decided to start a juice stand.
While working at the juice stand, Lilly found that squeezing juice made a mess of her clothes. Seeking to camouflage the juice stains, she designed a sleeveless shift dress made of bright, colorful printed cotton. Customers loved Lilly’s dress, so she produced more in order to sell them at her juice stand. By 1960, Lilly was selling more dresses than juice, and decided to focus on designing and selling what had become known as her “Lillys”. The Lillys sold from $30-$75. From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Pulitzer’s bright, colorful clothes were very popular, worn by society elites such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and members of the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Whitney families.
Today, Lilly Pulitzer continues to serve in the role of creative consultant, approving new designs, fabrics, and collections, and branching out into other product lines. The company maintains 75 Lilly Pulitzer Signature Stores, several company-owned retail stores, sells to independently owned stores and is in major department stores. Along with women’s clothing, the company also produces men’s clothing, children’s clothing, a bridal collection, maternity clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, bedding and stationery.
St. Louis has its own Lilly Pulitzer shop called Pink Magnolia. It is located on Clayton Rd. in Ladue. Pink Magnolia is a cheerful little boutique, featuring clothes, accessories and housewares in the true essence of Lilly. There you can find some great sales and raffle drawings. Check out Pink Magnolia to tap into the tropical vibe, whether you are planning a vacation in Palm Beach or your own backyard!